First Impressions: DCS F-4B/C Phantom by VSN Century Series
VSN and their Century Series have released some really neat aircraft in the past, such as the F-105, F-100 and last but not least, the F-104. Until now, their most detailed mod was the F-104 thanks to its custom cockpit and EFM. This is, as of now, about to change due to the fact the the VSN Century Series developers have decided to surprise us with a complete overhaul of their F-4B/C mod! This overhaul includes several features that distinguish it from its other VSN peers, features such as a completely custom cockpit, standalone air-intercept radar, an EFM and more! Let's now take a look at all of these quirks and features to figure out if this 'phantastic' Phantom is for you. DISCLAIMER: Everything in this article reflects only a pre-release/WIP build of the VSN F-4B/C mod that was graciously given to us for review purposes by PeeJott from the VSN team. We thank them a lot for the opportunity and the trust! EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS While some VSN mods in the past have had inconsistent artwork in this area, I am pretty happy with the work that has been done to the Phantom this time around. Externally, it is still based on the model that was used on the already public F-4B mod. I did notice the use of a new and improved normalmap that makes the panel lines and rivets pop a lot more. Aside from a couple of minor errors here and there, this is a very decent model.
One very interesting feature that this mod has is the capability of swapping both nose cone and engine nozzles just by manipulating a single value in a livery. This means that, for those who care more to dress like more modern variants of the Phantom, you are now capable of removing or installing different engines to adapt a livery to a certain time period: Interior-wise, the pilot seat is the only one that has been modeled. The WSO station is not operational. This does not mean that the team didn't put any detail on the pilot cockpit, though, quite the opposite. This cockpit is quite detailed when compared to other VSN aircraft, especially the F-104. It is their most detailed work so far and I am quite happy with it, especially that accurate gunsight and pipper ! It has some very minor issues which I have reported to them, so I hope that they will get resolved in due time! Here is a couple of screenshots for you to judge:
Overall, this mod indicates to me the direction in which the devs working at VSN Century Series want to go. They are actively trying to improve their quality and give us better and better mods as time goes. Are any of these models official module grade? No, of course they are not and that's fine! These were never meant to be official modules. FLIGHT MODELING DISCLAIMER: This is always a tough category, as like with any other aircraft, there is a lot to take into consideration other than just the feel of the flight model. This category is the most subjective one in this article as I do not have any real world experience with this craft. I will only base my opinion on practical experience and knowledge of practical aerodynamics and the theoretical behavior that a F-4B should have under certain scenarios. With the standard disclaimer out of the way, let's get started. To me, this mod gets a lot of things right and some a bit wrong. The way that it flies can be best described as trying to tame an unruly beast, thanks to its instability under certain circumstances. Take off can be daunting if you forgot to set your trim correctly as it will violently pitch down as soon as you let go of the stick to take your gear up. The same applies for regular flight too as I have to constantly re-trim it just to keep it level.
Another way to describe this is by saying that flying it is like aggressively driving a Dodge Viper. Just like the Dodge, this Phantom seems to not have any kind of stability augmentation system. You will have to hand-fly this baby all the way, with the exception of using the altitude hold to take a break while cruising towards your target. But talking about combat, that is where I think this EFM shines the most. I found myself enjoying it to the fullest while dogfighting MiG-19s and MiG-21s. The wings wobble at high AoA and it lets you know that you are pushing the limits with cockpit rattle and believe me, you will feel it departing before it does. Sometimes this can take the form of a simple stall or develop into a death spiral a-lá F-104, which makes sense as this comes from the same devs that worked on the Starfighter. One thing is certain, though: You will have to map some sort of curve to your controls. This aircraft lets you pull in ways I have not seen in other modules and I am uncertain if this is accurate to the behavior that a F-4B would have. MISSION CAPABILITIES You are the original multirole fighter, so that means that you have the capability of doing basically everything you can set your mind to. Does this mean you will be capable of one-manning an entire strike against modern enemies? No, but that will not stop you from trying. You have air to air and air to ground ordinance with the capability of always having a zero-compromise load of air to air missiles at your disposal, no matter which payload you decide to equip on your plane. Additionally, you have the capability of using air to air refueling to extend your range infinitely, so time on station is not really an issue. The B variants also have the capability of being launched from any carrier with a CATOBAR system, which means that those Navy nerds will get to live those dreams of launching off of a carrier to engage MiGs like they did back in 'Nam. ARMAMENT AN/APQ-72 RADAR This radar is one of the first publicly available standalone radars present in any DCS mod! This makes it so you no longer need to own Flaming Cliffs 3 aircraft or any other module to enjoy the thrill of Beyond Visual Range fights. That being said, this radar is very susceptible to enemy maneuvering and losing lock is common, so watch your display! AIM-7 SPARROW AND AIM-9 SIDEWINDER These are your only air to air missiles. The AIM-7 Sparrow is the one pictured above, with both its E and F variants. The AIM-9 is carried on the inner wing stations and you can equip quite a variety of models. You can choose to carry either 4 of each (4x AIM7 and 4x AIM-9) or go full "BVR" by carrying 6 Sparrows.
UNGUIDED AND GUIDED BOMBS This bird can drop insane amounts of tonnage over the battlefield and it can do it in both guided and unguided methods, this also includes napalm in the form of BIN-200 . Do keep in mind that even when carrying guided bombs such as the GBU-12/16/10, you depend on a buddy or a JTAC to actually guide the weapon. UNGUIDED ROCKETS If you want something dead in a general direction, then these are for you! You can choose between carrying Hydras, Zunis or FFARs. They are a lot of fun. SUU-23 GUN POD Early versions of the Phantom were not equipped with an internal gun, hence the need to carry an external gun pod. 20mm of anger at thousands of rounds per minute! RADAR WARNING RECEIVER This RWR is very simple but useful. It is also standalone and gives both visual and aural queues as to which radar emitter is and their relative strength in relation to you! THE NATURE OF MODS, THE F-4C AND MY THOUGHTS You might have noticed one small detail that I purposefully omitted from this article and that would be the lack of pictures from the F-4C side of this mod. If I can be completely honest with you, this was not for a lack of trying. In the build that I was given by the developers a couple of days ago, the F-4C was not in a playable state due to a couple major of bugs. This is not rare for WIP builds, though. I have reported all the issues I found in my time with the mod to the developers so that they can, hopefully, fix them by the time you get your hands on it.
PeeJott, the developer I was in contact with, was extremely receptive to the reports. He seems to be a very honest person and he personally hooked me up with the mod just so that I could write this article for you to read. That, to me, is a sign that he cares about this project and that he will put in the effort to fix these issues. Such is the nature of mods, they are projects driven solely by the passion of a small group of people striving to bring a new aircraft for everyone to enjoy at zero cost from the user. So, please, if at launch there are any problems with the mod, rest assured that the team behind this Phantom are passionate developers that care deeply about their projects. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: An early preview of what awaits us with Heatblur's Phantom. An all-weather carrier-capable fighter. A mod with some extremely unique systems. An excellent strike aircraft. If you don't mind: Not being able to use the WSO station. The small imperfections that come with mods and early access products. Getting a plane for free with no strings attached. If all or some of the above is what you want, then VSN Century Series' F-4B/C is for you! About the writer: Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter | Discord : Cubeboy #9034